Nov 14

PTSD progression not recognized by police departments

Written By Our Reader Steve:

LAPD-badgeHi I’m Steve, here are my bona fides, I was LAPD, class of 3-81-B (march 1981). My serial number is 23106. I completed the Academy at the age of 22. I was assigned Wilshire Division where I completed my probation. After probation, I was “wheeled” to Hollywood, where I again worked uniformed patrol as well as uniformed and plain clothes vice. After Three years, I requested a transfer to Newton, where continued to work patrol.

No war stories here, but if anyone knows what patrol is like in any of these areas, you will know that I have seen and done everything that a patrol officer experience. Both good and bad experiences. I also sustained numerous physical injuries that required surgery, lots of prescribed meds, and I indulged, with my peers the common partying that goes on.  Most everyone here should be able to relate to the fact that a few beer takes some of the edge off of what happened on patrol.

Most importantly, I want to talk about anxiety that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, followed by the persistent dreams and nightmares of a service weapon not firing when needed. This all started happening with about three years on the job, increasing as the years passed into depression, sleeplessness nights, or the ever present nightmares. I sought help for the depression through department psychologists, and the prescribed pain medication seemed to take the edge off. The psychologists were another matter, as repeating my experiences over and over was a waste of time. I was also not going to confide in any of my partners that I felt like I was loosing my mind. Of course, I had heard of the stress cases, the rubber gun squad and the sick, lame and lazy comments that were part of conversation. I certainly didn’t want to be labeled that so I soldiered on.

1987 was the worst, I did my job but it was obvious to everyone around me even my supervisors that something was wrong,. I was headed for a divorce, I was partying too much, and I was waking up in places I should not be. Still, the work continued, even though I was pulled aside by my supervisors, and they initiated a “stress” injury report, and I went to the department psych as an “order.” In my mind it was this department that was causing me all of these problems and that going to a smaller department would be the answer. With that in mind and very little preparation, I applied to and was hired by Great Falls police dept. in Montana. So with that I just walked out and quit. At this point I had not a rational thought in my head. But I was still able to pull off the professional officer routine

I thought it would be different in Montana, but it was just another place to push around a police car. The dreams and nightmares continued, every off duty activity involved drinking afterwards, and bartenders and barmaids became my therapy. I did well there on the job, but off duty I was out of control, selling my house and moving into what can only be described as a frat house.After two years of that, I realized I might have made a mistake in leaving LAPD, so I applied for reinstatement, which took forever, seeing that I am a white male and LAPD has a hiring quota called, racial diversity goals, adjusted new minimums, or something like that I do want to stay away from that aspect, as that is not the point of this.

I kept retaking their tests, oral after oral sitting on a perfect score that was never going to be considered, because Desert Storm veterans were getting five bonus points, making it impossible to get my 100 score to a 105, which was the hiring score at the time. And I couldn’t have gone to Desert storm, because I was working LAPD at the time. Would that be called ironic? Hiring scores aside it was suggested I move back to LA, become a Reserve Officer to show my dedication to the cause. With no job lined up in LA, and nowhere to live but with my parents, I thought that was a great idea, and quit the department.

Back in LA I was certifiable, I became a reserve in a minute, continued testing and grabbed a job at as a school police officer . After another year, after repeating test after test, I became frustrated with the LAPD hiring quota, so with documented evidence I went to the LA Times, where they printed it up on the front page. (if interested Google N. Stephen Vallance, and look up the August 25, 1993 paper and give it a read.) It is said everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, and I sure got mine. The fall out was not fun, and to make a long story short, the school police department let me go telling me I was stressed out. But they really wanted the news cameras of the property. I was also disqualified from LAPD for prior injuries I sustained ON THE DEPT, as well as psych.

I was now at a point where I felt like I was looking down on myself from the sky, if that makes sense, and shaking like a leaf. I was crazy, back to psychologists, psychiatrists, this med, that med, and they said I had PTSD. What a surprise. To wrap this up up, I had several great ideas, travel through Europe, buy sail,  and live on a sailboat, and going off into the sunset, on a boat after a couple of sailing lessons. So, I ran and ran, on psych meds, drinking and avoiding my PTSD.

This all changed a couple of years ago when I met a woman who pulled me off of my boat and into reality. I am not well by any means. But I am being treated by a great doctor, I am off the pain meds, and I no longer drink. My statement today is that I have PTSD, and I didn’t succeed in getting myself killed and I didn’t kill myself.

My message, and I will do all I can to help is you ever served, be it military, police, corrections, EMT, sworn or civilian. And if you experience on the job trauma, you deserve help from the agency you worked for. I know I saw and did too much, and it hit me hard. I have fought hard to be treated, others were not so fortunate. Public service employers, who’s employees are subject to traumatic events need to somehow be trained to recognize the symptoms of PTSD. As we know symptoms can arise in many ways, and some are reluctant to report them until it is too late. These employees are the responsibility of their agencies. PTSD must become a PRESUMED injury and as such from first responders to civilians tasked with crime scene investigations, even to dispatchers who have been exposed to trauma on the job. Lastly, those who have PTSD from those positions need treatment and they deserve full pensions for what they gave